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What Are You Drinking After Your Game? Is Chocolate Milk Better Than Gatorade? 

For over 20 years sports nutritionists and doctors have been telling athletes that to recover quicker from strenuous exercise you must fuel your body with carbohydrates, proteins and fluids. Most athletes turn to sport drinks like Gatorade, Endurox R4 and others. Yet, what you might not know is that chocolate milk has similar carbohydrate and protein content to many of the leading sport drinks.

Recent research has shown that plain old chocolate milk may be as good as or better than products like Gatorade and Endurox R4 when it comes to replacing fluids and carbohydrates.

The study, conducted by researcher Jason Karp, M.S. of India University, found that chocolate milk is comparable or better than sports drinks by testing two manufactured products (Gatorade and Endurox R4) and low-fat chocolate milk using elite bicyclists. In the study, published in the

International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, Karp used nine endurance cyclists who did an interval training workout, rested 4 hours drinking the chosen test drink, then worked out to exhaustion. Karp found that during a second round of exercise, the cyclists who drank the chocolate milk were able to bike about 50% longer than those who drank Endurox, and about as long as those who drank the Gatorade.

Many dietitians and sports nutritionists feel the study should help to counteract the belief that high-tech, expensive supplements are better than whole foods when it comes to athletic performance. Many are quick to point out that Chocolate milk contains many beneficial ingredients: a high protein component, calcium, riboflavin and Vitamin D, among others.

"I've been touting chocolate milk for years," says Felice Kurtzman, sports nutritionist for the University of California, Los Angeles' athletic department. "Chocolate milk provides carbohydrates, calcium, other trace minerals," she says. "And the important thing is that the kids drink it. I can tell you from our training table that football drinks it, swimming drinks it, track drinks it."

"Milk is a sports drink ‘plus,’" says Keith Ayoob, EdD, a registered dietitian and associate professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "It will supply you with things you need whether or not you’re working out."

So if you’re thinking about changing from sports drinks to chocolate milk here are some more reasons to switch: Milk helps strengthens bones, and promotes a healthy weight. The protein in the milk contains all of the essential amino acids for building or maintaining a good body mass. Milk provides essential electrolytes. Like a banana, milk as 10 times more potassium than most sport drinks. A single glass of milk gives you 20% of the phosphorus needed each day, helping to strengthen your bones and generate energy in your cells.

Milk contains vitamins such as B-12, niacin and riboflavin, which are crucial in converting food to energy to fuel your muscles. Robert Anding, a sports dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, points out that ‘rapid nutrient replacement it can make a big difference in performance for competitive athletes who work out vigorously once or twice a day.’

So the next time you or your son/daughter are deciding on the cherry or grape sports drink try a low fat chocolate milk instead. You might be surprised by the results.

Sources: Karp, Jason R.; Johnston, Jeanne D.; Tecklenburg, Sandy; Mickleborough, Tim; Fly, Alyce; Stager, Joel M. FACSM The Efficacy of Chocolate Milk as a Recovery Aid, Annual Meeting Abstracts: C-34 - Free Communication/Poster: Post-Exercise Nutrition. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: Volume 36(5) Supplement May 2004 p S126. Sine, Richard,

"Chocolate Milk: The New Sports Drink?" cbsnews.com, February 24, 2006. Rosen, Allyson,

"Announcing the new sport drink: Chocolate milk!" netscape.com, June 9, 2006. Cromley, Janet,

"Some are exercised over chocolate milk study" LA Times, March 23, 2006.